Today, I am going to be looking at a specific theme deck: Goblin Archer. This is an aggro Archer Deck (which means it combines the red Strength attribute with the green Agility attribute). The green Agility cards contain several Goblins, which can provide great synergy, when they fight together. Goblins, as you might know from any roleplaying experience, or reading Harry Potter, are fierce little creatures that attack everything, usually in larger groups (see Goblin on Wikipedia).
Murkwater Skirmisher is key!
The key card to Goblin decks is the Murkwater Skirmisher, an epic card from the Core Set. The skirmisher provides a great summon effect: when he enters play, all other friendly Goblins on the board get +2/+2 to their power/ health stats. This turns all fierce little Goblins on the board into pretty serious threats and is intended to start a snowballing effect to beat down your opponent. The keyword in these last two sentences is “all”. That means, for four magicka, the skirmisher provides a 4/4 creature, plus an additional +2/+2 for every other goblin on the board. If you have three out, this means you will get a 10/10 power onto the board for just four magicka, and you will most likely just have won the game.
So… you really want at least one other Goblin already out there, but what do we need to consider when we build a theme deck around the Murkwater Skirmisher?
Ideally, we want to include:
- lots of more low-cost Goblins to have them control the board early on,
- good card draw effects to ensure we get a Skirmisher more consistently and we also get more of those low-cost goblins to hand as fast and early as possible,
- other cards that help us to improve the power stats of our Goblin armada
Skirmisher Synergy #1: The Goblin-Armada
In the most ideal scenario, we would have the ring and draw the skirmisher by turn three. This means we could have up Goblins for a magicka of a maximum of 10 (2+3+4) magicka on the board. Without the ring, we could have played Goblins for a maximum of 6 (1+2+3) magicka ready to be boosted. The Agility attribute gives us the following great options for our Goblin armada:
- 0-cost: Murkwater Goblin – 2 damage is the best you can get from a zero-cost card. However, Murkwater Goblin can be killed by opponents without damaging their own creatures, or can be easily removed by mass-removal cards, as it has only 1 health. You can find this common card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost: Goblin Skulk – One of the best cards for an aggro deck as it not only deals 2 damage but also can pull out one zero cost card (yes, exactly – a Murkwater Goblin). It is also a goblin in itself and would benefit from the Skirmisher. However, your opponent will most likely immediately want to use a hard-removal card on their next turn. The skulk is a rare card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost: Murkwater Witch – A 1/1 goblin with guard that gives another (enemy) creature -1/-1. If you get her to the opening hand, she can oftentimes be used for a two-for-one trade in the field lane: use the summon-effect to remove a 1-health creature and ideally get your opponent to run another 1-health creature into the guard. If they don’t you will have a 3/3 guard after Skirmisher comes to play. The witch can be found as a rare card in the Core Set.
- 2-cost Reflective Automation – A 2/3 Factotum that has all creature types and counts as a goblin as well. It comes at a low cost and also gets the Skirmisher boost, so it’s a sometimes overlooked option in Goblin decks.
- 3-cost: Murkwater Butcher – This common goblin from the Core Set is a 3/2 creature for the cost of three magicka is not bad at all. However, if you can get the butcher to your hand during the first turn you can play it for only one magicka, which is just amazing value.
- 3-cost: Murkwater Guide – This common goblin from the Clockwork City expansion is a 4/2 treasure hunter: if you draw a zero-cost card (i.e. Murkwater Goblin), you get to put a copy of that card into your hand. Wooohooow! Here is a card draw effect, when you happen to draw the Murkwater Goblin after the Murkwater Guide is on the board. If you happen to have the Skirmisher in hand, your opponent is in real deep trouble now…
- 3-cost: Murkwater Savage – A 2/2 rare goblin from the Core Set that has a great effect: it gains +1/+1 whenever you play another green Agility creature. This means it gets +3/+3 if that card happens to be a Skirmisher. Also note: to have maximum consistency with this effect, we want as many green Agility cards in our Goblin Archer deck.
- 4-cost: Murkwater Shaman – A 3/3 epic goblin from the Core Set that has a powerful effect of putting a Curse into your hand at the start of your turn. Pretty powerful, if combined with removal cards like Leaflurker or Finish Off. Can be ideal to remove strong guard creatures like Hive Defender, Khuul Lawkeeper or Portcullis, that might want to stop your Goblin Armada.
Let’s call this set of cards the “Goblin Armada”: three copies of 7 additional Goblins, plus 3 Reflective Automata – that makes up for 24 synergy cards and gives us a very consistent chance to draw (and play) as many goblins as early as possible.
The Goblin deserving an honorable mention is Tazkad – The Packmaster. With a cost of 9 magicka, it is not very likely that it would get played often as the idea of the Goblin Archer deck is to be long-finished before you reach turn 8 or 9 in the game. Of course, the card has great reach, but three rare 5 magicka Cliff Racers would be a much cheaper alternative to add reach to Goblin Archer.
Some good news for new starters to the game: the Goblin package is not too costly to acquire:
- Murkwater Skirmishers, Murkwater Shamans: These epics can be acquired in soul summon for a cost of 400 shards each (2400 shards for all 6). Note, if you want to accelerate this and spend a little money, you can find one Murkwater Shaman in the Telvanni Ambition theme deck. If you don’t have the Murkwater Shaman in your collection, you may want to add other guard removal cards to the deck to protect our Goblin Armada. The shaman is not a must-have element of the goblin pack.
- Reflective Automaton: You get 3 copies as part of the Return to Clockwork City story expansion.
- Goblin Skulk: 3 copies are included with the theme deck: Brynjolf’s Heist.
- Murkwater Witch: 2 copies are included with the Parthunax’s Roar theme deck.
- Leaflurker (for synergy with Murkwater Shamans): 3 copies are included in the New Life Festival Pack. One copy each is part of the Black Marsh Smuggler and the Dunmer Avenger set.
Skirmisher Synergy #2: Good Card Draw
In addition to an armada of goblins, we need abilities to draw them quickly and consistently. The goblin package already provides the Goblin Skulk as well as the Murkwater Guide / Murkwater Goblin synergy to more Murkwater Goblins. But the Archer class offers additional card draw tools – keep in mind we are looking for cheap draw tools that work with 1-3 magicka:
Card draw options in green Agility attribute:
- 1-cost: Shadow Shift – An action that protects a creature by moving it to the other lane (e.g. moving a creature after causing face-damage from the field lane to the shadow lane, where it gains cover) and draws a card. Pretty cool, when played on a turn 1 Murkwater Butcher or to protect a Goblin Skulk from being removed by an opposing creature. A pretty good choice…
- 2-cost: Sly Marshblade – a rare 3/2 Dark Elf from the Forgotten Hero Collection. It’s card draw effect is more difficult to activate in Goblin Archer as it’s a last gasp ability to draw a card (only) if you have 7 or more max magicka. Therefore, it’s better to stay away from this option in Goblin Archer!
- 2-cost: Suran Pawnbroker – a rare 2/3 Dark Elf from Houses of Morrowind with a plot ability, to draw a zero cost card. Has synergy with the treasure hunt ability of the Murkwater Guide goblin, and can also pull out a Murkwater Goblin, a North Firebrand for a 1/1 charge effect, as well as other “cheap” zero-cost cards that can help with removal or winning tempo. I think, this is a pretty good choice.
- 2-cost: Thieves Guild Recruit – a common Argonian from the core set that draws a card. However, it’s second effect (reducing a card that costs 7 or more by one) is not useful in Goblin Archer. Probably stay away from the Thieves Guild Recruit in Goblin Archer…
- 3-cost: Cornerclub Gambler is an epic Houses of Morrowind 4/3 card with the following summon effect: “Summon: You must discard a card. At the start of your turn, draw two cards and Cornerclub Gambler loses this ability.” This is somewhat super-awesome, as it let’s you draw two cards, however it has to survive until the start of your next turn. So it’s a bit of a gamble, but if you win, it’s awesome. Definitely a good option for a Goblin Archer deck.
- 3-cost: Daring Heist is a rare Return to Clockwork City action that immediately draws you two cards, however, you can play Daring Heist only, unless a creature in each lane has damaged your opponent during the same turn before. Hence, the Heist is usually not very consistent, but if you have enough Goblins spread out already, it can work. If your collection contains the Cornerclub Gamblers, I would strongly recommend to go for her, as she is another 4/3-body that can fight and her 2-card draw-effect is a bit easier to be pulled off, by simply playing her to the shadow lane.
- 3-cost: Varanis Courier is a 1/3 common Dark Elf guard from the Core Set. His last gasp ability lets you draw a card. It can be used to provide a little bit of protection for your goblin armada but a 1/3 guard is probably not good enough to cause enough damage for a full trade. Hence, I’d probably not include him in Goblin Archer.
- 6-cost: Sails-Through-Storms is a 5/5 body with a powerful Pilfer effect. When the Argonian pilfers, he summons the top creature from your deck. An easy way to get more goblins onto the board. However, the 6-cost might already be a little bit too high. Still a good option to try!
Card draw options in red Strengths attribute:
- 1-cost: Rapid Shot is a common action from the Core Set that pings a creature for 1 damage, and draws a card if the creature survives. It’s simple and efficient and has snyergy with Finish Off and Leaflurker as well. Definitely worth considering.
- 2-cost: Plunder is an action that draws two items. It doesn’t help in drawing Goblins from your deck, but can help to boost the power of your Goblins on the board. It’s an interesting option for Goblin Archer as it can increase your reach if you have a Cliff Racer or other charge creatures in hand.
The other Strengths card draw options are not really a good fit for Goblin Archer as their cost are usually too high for this aggro deck.
As several Agility cards (most notably the goblin Murkwater Savage, but also Nimble Ally) get boosted when the top card of your deck is another green Agility card, I suggest to only very carefully include red card draw options into a Goblin Archer deck, in order to not reduce the consistency of this boosts. They will usually be desparately needed to win the game before turn 5 or 6.
Skirmisher Synergy #3: Powering up Goblins even further
As the Skirmisher has a one-time-only summon effect, and since you can only include three skirmishers in your deck, the snowball effect is not really something you can consistently rely on during every game. We can mitigate this by adding some additional tools to our deck that would improve the stats of all our creatures on the board. Two good examples:
- Walking the Hidden Trail
The support card Hidden Trail does exactly that – it provides a +1 power enhancement to your creatures as a permanent effect and it also allows to protect the Goblins for one turn after they are played in the shadows, so other creatures cannot immediately attack them. Needless to say – Murkwater Skirmisher and Hidden Trail in themselves have a huge synergy when you are trying to beat down your opponent.
2. Entering the Thieves’ Den
A similar effect can be achieved with the Thieves’ Den support card – it provides a Pilfer “+1/+1” effect to creatures, which can help a lot with our snowballing strategy. However, Goblins can usually be removed relatively easily, so each Goblin in itself will not get too many Pilfer effects through – maybe 1 or 2. Still a decent option to consider.
3. Dune Smuggler, Dune Stalker, Shadow Shift
Since you might be running Shadow Shift, you might equally want to include the Dune Smuggler & Dune Stalker package. This allows your “key” goblin to change lane and get some additional boost from lane shifts. Might also give some additional cover if you let him attack first and then move him into the Shadow Lane.
As a recommendation, you should consider to include a few “Armada Boosters” that mitigate the risk of not drawing Murkwater Skirmisher consistently. Sometimes two or three such cards can be enough.
As the Hidden Trail is an epic card, it may be a bit easier to acquire than the lege-6 ndary Thieves’ Den. Please note, a Thieves’ Den can be earned, if your hero Khajit hero reaches levels 24 or 32.
The Goblin Archer Core Package
To summarize, we end up with about 28 – 39 cards in our Goblin Archer core package:
- 18-21 Goblin cards to form your Armada – up to 27 as a maximum
- 3 Murkwater Skirmishers to boost your Goblin Armada
- 3 – 6 additional (Agility) cards to consistently keep drawing more Goblins
- 1 – 3 additional armada boosters for more consistency
- 3 – 6 Guard removal cards
This leaves between 11 and 22 cards to include into our 50-card deck. What else to include?
Extensions to the Goblin Archer Core Package
A lethal gambit package for up to 7 cards is a good option to help with guard removal:
- 2-cost: Archers Gambit! This gem gives you several great synergies. First of all, the gambit is great to let Goblin Skulk pilfer an additional time, by hitting face with it direcly and it might also help shift the skulk to the free lane for the second pilfer, if a pesky guard is blocking him. Secondly, if combined with Lethal creatures, the gambit will let you remove guards. This potentially provides a bit more tempo than Rapid Shot and Leaflurker.
- 1-cost: Fighter’s Guild Recruit – A lethal guard with prophecy. Helps to protect your Goblins early on and has the synergy with Archers Gambit and Astrid.
- 3- cost: Astrid – When a lethal creature slays, you get a 0-cost (Murkwater Guide synergy!) Contract, that increases your available magicka. This is not enough, as it can also help to play an additional goblin onto the board.
- 3-cost: Nimble Ally – With as little red Strengths cards as possible, the ally will consistently turn into a 4/4 with Lethal which can easily take two guards off the board.
A little more Reach can never hurt in an aggro deck. With “Reach” we can immediately push additional damage. For example, we can include 6-9 cards for reach.
- 1-cost: Shadowmere – A 1/1 charge creature for the cost of 1 magicka that will be shuffled into your deck when it dies as a 4/4 for 4 magicka.
- 1-cost: Relentless Raider – A 2/1 body that adds an additional damage of 1 for each opponent rune that is broken. Awesome if you can make it survive for one or even multiple runes.
- 3-cost: House Kinsman – An epic 3/2 dark elf from the Core Set. His Last Gasp ability not only deals 3 damage to your opponent, but helps you to regain some health. This might be good when racing against a battlemage aggro deck
- 3-cost: Crushing Blow – 3 damage – plain and simple.
- 4-cost: Reive, Blademaster – A 3/5 unique legendary, from the Core Set: When Reive attacks, this deals 2 damage to the enemy player, then increase the damage from this ability by 2 every turn. Great if he can survive for 2 attacks.
- 5-cost: Cliff Racer – Push 4 damage with this rare charge creature from the Core Set.
- 5-cost: Underworld Vigilante – Charge for 4 damage or remove a Guard or medium threat even in the Shadow Lane.
A few additional ideas that you might want to test:
- 2-cost: A Night to Remember – Play it on Murkwater Skirmisher to double his effect :). Perhaps this will not be consistent enough, although it has some additional synergy with other summon effects, e.g. another +1/+1 for Nimble Ally, or Murkwater Savage, or on Thieves Guild Recruit for an additional card draw.
- 3-cost: Silent Pilgrim – to draw Archers Gambit.
A few sample deck lists for Goblin Archer decks can be found on legends-decks.com:
- (One of) The earliest Goblin Archer deck when TESL was still in beta – published by Lukáš Provazník
- Lateralus19 was particularly successful with a Triumphant Jarl-Goblin Archer. Triumphant Jarl is another great tool for card draw. Lateralus19 has also described the archetype more extensively in this Between-the-Lanes blog post. The Cornerclub Gambler might just be a better more recent card for draw at a lower magicka cost, though.
- Matt Oblivium has created a very successful Goblin Archer Gambit deck that many played on the ladder at the time.
- itg has reached legend rank with his Goblin Archer variant. He runs Morag Tong Aspirants for early lane control, Relentless Raider, Underworld Vigilante and Reive Blademaster for some additional reach damage, as well as the Dune Smuggler agility and boost package.
- In the most recent variation of a Goblin Archer, CHARM3R puts a Legendary Deck Spotlight together, which has been the inspiration for this blog post and much of the credit for this summary goes to his YouTube channel which is a constant source of inspiration with more great explanations and insights.
If you like, you can check out my very own take at the Goblin Archer archetype. Please find Holoir’s Goblin Archer at legends-deck.com.
Here are some screenshots of how you want the archetype to function.